MIAMI - Reuters
Weather forecasters say the System 96L low pressure area has become Storm Debby. REUTERS photo
Tropical Storm Debby formed in the central Gulf of Mexico on June 23 and was expected to strengthen into a hurricane as it skirted the Louisiana coast and took aim at Texas, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
Debby covered much of the eastern Gulf and was centered about 346 kilometers south-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. The storm had top winds of 81 km per hour and was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by tomorrow night.
The storm was nearly stationary but was forecast to start drifting north by today and then turn west, grazing the Louisiana coast through tomorrow and slamming into Texas late in the week.
Oil and gas producers evacuated workers from oil and gas platforms and shut in production on Saturday as the weather worsened in the Gulf of Mexico, which is home to 20 percent of U.S. oil production and 6 percent of natural gas output.
The U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which oversees oil and gas activity in the Gulf, said earlier on Saturday that 7.8 percent of daily oil output and 8.16 percent of daily natural gas output were shut down.
A tropical storm warning was issued for the Louisiana coast from the Pearl River west to Morgan City, excluding the city of New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. Residents were warned to expect storm conditions within 36 hours.
“Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach the coast within the warning area by Sunday night, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous,” the forecasters warned.
The combination of storm surge and high tide could cause flooding in normally dry areas near the Louisiana coast, they said.
Debby could bring 8 to 15 centimeter of rain to the Gulf Coast from southern Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, with up to 25 centimeters of rain in isolated areas.